[Vredeslijst] Syrian Regime kills dozens in Chem attack on Douma Holdout Enclave: Why? By Juan Cole

Jeff meisner op xs4all.nl
Di Apr 10 02:53:26 CEST 2018


Analysis by Juan Cole, below.
Also:

Conspiracy theories and victim-blaming begins again! Response from Alexander 
Reid Ross on facebook, reprinted here:
   https://louisproyect.org/2018/04/09/the-chemical-attack-in-douma/

Extensive analysis of Ghouta battle and forces by Michael Karadjis.
Ghouta: Issues Behind the Apocalypse: Armed and civil rebellion, Class and Islam
By Michael Karadjis  21 March 2018
https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/ghouta-issues-behind-the-apocalypse-armed-and-civil-rebellion-class-and-islam/

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Syrian Regime kills dozens in Chem attack on Douma Holdout Enclave: Why?
By Juan Cole | Apr. 8, 2018
    https://www.juancole.com/2018/04/syrian-holdout-enclave.html

The Saudi-backed fundamentalist militia ďArmy of IslamĒ in the Douma 
district of East Ghouta near Damascus alleged Sunday that the al-Assad 
regime had dropped a barrel bomb full of chlorine and other chemicals on the 
rebel enclave on Saturday. Initial reports said that some 41, including 
non-combatants and including children, were killed, some with tell-tale 
signs of frothing around the mouth. Other reports spoke of some 150 dead.

The regime has conquered most of East Ghouta in a brutal campaign waged by 
Syrian Arab Army special forces and the Russian Aerospace Forces against 
guerrilla groups in the rebel stronghold. Of the roughly 350,000 inhabitants 
as of the beginning of this year, some reports suggest that 150,000 have 
fled, either to nearby refugee camps or north to the rebel-held province of 
Idlib.

[Al Jazeera video at: https://youtu.be/3NYo_UePmg8]

Douma is the last holdout. Despite reports on Saturday that the Army of 
Islam had agreed to an evacuation, negotiations thereafter broke down. One 
problem is that the Army of Islam does not want to go to Idlib, which is 
dominated by the Levantine Liberation Organization (HTS, former Nusra 
Front), with which its members have a blood feud. HTS has continued links to 
al-Qaeda and may now be backed by Turkey, whereas the Army of Islam belongs 
to the pro-Saudi strand of hard line Salafism.

On Saturday, the Russian press, at least, reported that Army of Islam 
spokesmen boasted that the special operations Panther Forces (Quwwat 
al-Nimr) that had been committed against Ghouta militias were taking high 
numbers of casualties from Army of Islam snipers as they tried to advance 
into Douma. The regime has suffered a military collapse over the past 7 
years, with most Sunni Arabs deserting or defecting. Alawi Shiite troops are 
for the most part loyal to the regime, but there may be only 35,000 or 
50,000 of them left (the Syrian Arab Army had 300,000 troops in 2010).

The long and the short of it is that strongman Bashar al-Assad cannot afford 
to lose highly trained and highly valuable Panther Forces troops in large 
numbers.

Chemical weapons are used by desperate regimes that are either outnumbered 
by the enemy or are reluctant to take casualties in their militaries. 
Barrel-bombing Douma with chem seems to have appealed to the regime as a 
tactic for this reason. It had the potential of frightening the Douma 
population into deserting the Army of Islam. Guerrilla groups need favorable 
populations in which to operate. Mao Zedong compared such friendly locals to 
a guerrilla armyís ass, which allows it to sit down. Without an ass, he 
pointed out, guerrillas are forced to keep running around standing up, until 
they get exhausted. The regime is trying to deprive the Army of Islam of 
this fundament.

It might be asked why the regime would take this chance, given that Trump 
bombed the Shuaryat Air Force base last year this time in response to regime 
use of chemical weaponry at Khan Shikhoun. The answer is that the regime is 
more worried about disaffection in the ranks of its Special Forces than it 
is about Trump. Further, Trumpís emotional bombing was a one-off, not 
strategic. It did no lasting damage to the Shuayrat Base, from which fighter 
jets went on flying. And Trump has already announced that he wants to be out 
of Syria by October. Further, the barrel bomb may have been intended to kill 
25 persons so that the attack might fly under the radar; this sort of weapon 
is unpredictable in its effects and the death toll rose to the level where 
it hit the headlines.

It is tiresome that one keeps having to fight against regime and Russian 
fake news about all this. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria 
has found large numbers of regime chemical weapons attacks. The rebels, in 
contrast, are not thought to have sarin, e.g., in their arsenal. While the 
Army of Islam could conceivably have chlorine, pro-regime and Putinesque 
trolls would have to twist themselves into pretzels to explain why it would 
release it in its own territory.

Here is a UN infographic on the regimeís chem use:
https://www.juancole.com/images/2018/04/COISyria_ChemicalWeapons.jpg



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